by Lorie Lewis Ham
I had the pleasure recently of meeting Nancy Holder at a Yosemite Romance Writers Group meeting in Fresno and of hearing her speak. Nancy has written several Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel tie in books so I took some time to ask her about those and a few things about her other writing. Later this year we will be interviewing Nancy about her other writing and reviewing the first book in her new series, Unleashed!
Lorie: When and how did you first get into writing?
Nancy: I did a lot of writing all through my life before I decided to try to become a fulltime freelancer. I have three completed novels and innumerable starts and stops that I’ve never sold. The first book I ever sold was a young adult romance.
Lorie: When were you first published?
Nancy: A long time ago!
Lorie: How hard was it to get your first book published?
Nancy: I have never sold the first novel I ever wrote. I wrote fulltime for a year and a half, and then it took about nine months for my agent to sell a partial for me—three chapters and an outline.
Lorie: What genres have you written in, and do you find one any harder than the other? Do you have a favorite to write?
Nancy: I’ve written in a lot of different genres, from young adult epic dark fantasy to paranormal romance to ghost/occult fiction; adult romance and paranormal romance; science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I write a lot of books tied in to TV shows and characters—Buffy, Angel, Smallville, Hellboy, Hulk, Saving Grace. I also write comic books. My favorite is whatever I’m doing at the moment. I love to write and I love the process of writing.
Lorie: How did you get the job of writing Buffy books?
Nancy: A horror editor I knew was looking for an author in case she won the rights in a bidding auction. A writer friend of mine suggested me, and although that editor didn’t get the rights, I contacted the editor who did. And she hired me based on the fact that I had a lot of writing credentials and had written a tie-in for Highlander.
Lorie: How many did you write?
Nancy: Dozens. Way too many to list! Please check www.nancyholder.com or Fantastic Fiction.
Lorie: What is the process like in writing the tie in books-i.e. do you pitch ideas, etc?
Nancy: I usually pitch ideas and/or write a detailed outline. If I’m new to a property I usually pitch first, then write the outline.
Lorie: How did you get your ideas?
Nancy: It used to be difficult to come up with ideas but now it’s second nature to me. I think it’s like a muscle—the more you use it, the better shape it’s in. With writing a tie-in, I watch all the episodes of a show over and over, to try to get a sense of what the key themes and arcs of the show is. Then I try to think of “further adventures” for the characters.
Lorie: Tell me a bit about your experience working on the watcher guides?
Nancy: It was wonderful. I spoke to all the crew and staff and my coauthors and I interviewed nearly all the actors and actresses. I went on set a lot, attended their Christmas lunches, etc. I walked on lots of sets and on Tuesdays, everyone would get an extended lunch and we’d watch that night’s episode together.
Lorie: Did you get to meet and talk to all of the cast? What was that like?
Nancy: For the first Watcher’s Guide, we had a liaison we were supposed to clear our interview requests with. That lasted a couple of days. Then we were told we could approach anyone we wanted whenever they were free. So we’d watch the shooting and when someone had a moment, we’d approach them. Everyone was so generous with their time.
Lorie: Could you share that story about Marc Blucas you shared at the meeting?
Nancy: Yes. It was a frazzled night of shooting on location for “The Initiative” and it was cold. Marc had a really bad cold, too. But it was a hard night for me for a number of reasons and Marc must have sensed it. He invited me to have a cup of hot chocolate together (which he made for me!) and we sat and chatted companionably. He is a very, very nice person. I told that story to a Buffy Studies class at UC San Diego and apparently, someone there knows his mom; she called his mom and told her the story. I’m so glad Ms. Blucas knows what a great guy her son is.
Lorie: Any fun, funny stories to share about Nathan for all of our Castle fans?
Nancy: Every Comic-con, my daughter and I (we have sold short fiction together) sign for charity in the Browncoats booth. They’re Firefly fans, and the California Browncoats make tons of money for charity every year by selling signed merchandise, Jayne hats, and inviting authors to sign books. When someone makes a donation, Belle and I sign books (that we provide.)
Belle is a huge Nathan Fillion fan (aren’t we all?) and she bought a British poster of Serenity. We knew that NF was going to stop by the booth later but we weren’t going to be there. So we asked the Browncoats to get it signed by him for her. They did! She thought that was as good as it got. But later, we saw him at the Marriott Hotel down by the San Diego Convention Center and he very sweetly posed with her for pictures. They’re up at my Facebook page.
Lorie: What do you love most about Buffy and Angel?
Nancy: The writing. The scripts for those shows are phenomenal. It’s no wonder that academicians, linguists, and popular culture theorists are engrossed in studying “the Whedonverse.”
Lorie: How much time did you get to be on the set?
Nancy: For Buffy, probably about a month all told. For Angel, probably a total of two weeks.
Lorie: Did the books have to fit in with the series like something that “could” have happened within the storylines of the episodes?
Nancy: Yes. For example, Queen of the Slayers covers all the things Buffy and Company are doing, according to the dialogue on Angel, while Angel’s getting ready for the final battle.
Lorie: Are you going to be writing any more Buffy books?
Nancy: I hope to!
Lorie: Can you share the story about the fans that were angry about the book you wrote where Buffy and Angel got together?
Nancy: I wrote Heat near the end of the Buffy series and assumed, based on what I’d heard, that Buffy and Angel were going to get back together. So I wrote them in as a couple in that book. It didn’t happen and Spike fans were so angry with me they put up dozens of bad reviews of the book on Amazon. As it was the only Buffy book out at the time, and the show was ending, this was a dangerous thing to do because if the book didn’t sell well, the publisher would stop publishing Buffy books. They were already watching to see how well Heat sold before commissioning any new books. I got the word to the Spike fans and the reviews were taken down.
Lorie: What is them ost fun or exciting part about writing the Buffy/Angel books?
Nancy: I love Buffy and Angel so much that it was very exciting to be part of their world. I also love TV production (my degree has an emphasis in mass communications) so it was a joy to watch such smart people working on such a smart show, or couple of shows.
Lorie: Did you get to meet Joss? (he’s my hero so I’m very jealous)
Nancy: Yes, I met Joss and I’ve interviewed him a couple of times. I also got to watch him direct. He is brilliant.
Lorie: What other TV tie ins have you written?
Nancy: Sabrina the Teen Age Witch, Wishbone, The Masquerade; Elric of Melinboné, and all the ones listed above.
Lorie: What do you think makes Buffy/Angel stand out from some other vampire shows/movies?
Nancy: They are brilliant shows about so much more than killing demons. For me, Buffy is about the challenges and joys of being alive. For Angel, I think the theme is that we must do the right thing simply for the having done it. We can’t control the results, but we can choose to do the right thing. That’s what the last scene in the series means to me.
Lorie: Do you think they helped pave the way for the success of books like Twilight?
Nancy: I’m not sure. I have a series called Crusade with a “good” vampire in it and some readers accuse me of copycatting Twilight. I like to point out that Joss was there first. BTW, Twilight captivated me.
Lorie: Have you watched the other Joss shows? How do you think they compare?
Nancy: I am a Joss fan no matter what he does. I’ve seen all his shows and he will always be my captain.
Lorie: Do you keep up with the Buffy/Angel actors projects since then? And do you keep in contact with any of them personally?
Nancy: Yes. I just saw Amber Benson at a book festival. She reminded me that we’ve known each other for 15 years. How can that be?
Lorie: Anything else you would like to add?
Nancy: I hope people will pick up my series, Crusade, which I wrote with my Wicked co-author, Debbie Viguié. It’s World War III—the vampires declared war on us, and they won. So we have a fractious band fighting against them—which include a witch such as in our series, Wicked; a Danish werewolf; a Japanese Hunter; a Northern Irish street fighter; our vampire, who is a Spaniard studying to be a priest when he was turned; and our American, Jenn. Our template for the series is actually World War II, and we deal with matters of faith and belief as well as the vampire apocalypse.
Lorie: Can you give us a brief synopsis on your new book Unleashed which we will talking with you about later this year?
Nancy: Debbie and I are so excited about Unleashed. It’s about werewolves and it’s set in the Ozarks, where there are lots of tall tales about “haints” and lost treasures, and things that live in the forest. We love our three main characters, Katelyn, Trick, and Justin. The first book will come out two days before Thanksgiving—November 22.